Blackmagic Version 3.0: What the best alte music sounded like 7 years ago- Dami Ajayi

2020 has been an exceptional year already in terms of Nigerian music.

Following the end of year glut of album releases, things typically don’t get exciting until April. It is into this lull that one of the older guns, Blackmagic, steps into with a brand new project.

Coming at least five years since his joint work with KidKonnect and seven years after Version 2.0, Blackmagic’s Version 3.0, self-titled and third in a  tentative trilogy of albums exploring the artist in relation to his immediate circumstances, arrived a bit later than expected.

Given the massive critical and modest commercial reception of his Version 2.0, waiting for over five years to offer a new body of work seems like a mortal risk. Version 2.0 stands in his discography as that crucial album that helped demonstrate the appeal and possibility  of a swanky new sound, a mash-up of influences from Fela’s Afrobeat to early incarnation of American Rap and Hip-Hop. Add to this that Lagos bourgeois tendency and you can understand while Blackmagic’s magic had its radius around the Lekki-Ikoyi axis from where it bodied forth to explore the world.

But rather than step in with another album, Blackmagic gave abject silence instead. Nature does not abhor vacuums, how much more a teeming population of culture-starved young Nigerians.

The last five years has seen the evolution of Nigerian music in general and the alternative scene in particular from baton passing to massive creative consolidation. The likes of Darey and NoMoreloss opened that scene for anyone who considers lyrical potency and meaningful musical traditions over what can trend and pop. It hardly matters if you are wielding a guitar, crooning an autotune or dying your hair, the alternative scene has become dynamic even if it is still undebatably niche.

Efemena Mukoro is an OG. He brings back his quirky rap chops to fleshed out and vibey musical productions in his latest project. If 2.0 was about finding his footing and exploring the meaning of his essence, it seems he is only here to remind us of that moment with 3.0.

3.0 tries to update  that transient phenomenon but hardly succeeds. The counterpoint to time passing time is that taste also evolves. We can’t continue to enjoy alternative music as if Santi, ShowDemCamp, Donli, WurlD, Funbi, Ajebutter, BOJ and Odunsi haven’t happened to us. And while Blackmagic blacked out for whatever reasons—seeking inspiration, life’s hard knocks—music has moved on, beyond basic rhyme techniques about penile length and the strabismus it could invoke in  the opposite sex.

Version 3.0 is not all fluff and brag though, there are moments when Blackmagic seems to have his knuckles on the magic but these moments are few and far between.

At 50 minutes spool time, it would seem this album could have been rid of some songs that croon alike. ‘No Need’ sits in the middle of the tracklist,  perhaps the album’s fulcrum. Blackmagic does his magic, singing and rapping to a laidback beat, all baritone and brawn, even though the lyrics happen to be tender. Production is decent but there are unforgivable pauses on songs like “Ponmo” and ‘No Need”.

Blackmagic Version 3.0 effectively reminds us what  the best of alternative music sounded like seven years ago.

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